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by Peter Moskos

September 10, 2014

Good use of Taser

NYPD subdue armed mentally disturbed man. Nobody seriously hurt.

That's the headline you should read every now and then. But you rarely do.

I'm not a big fan of the Taser, but this seems to me exactly what it is designed for.

What's odd, at least to me, is that here is a perfect use of the Taser. A crazy gets zapped. Nobody gets seriously hurt. And yet at least one media source seems to imply something bad happened.

Also, does the NYPD really respond to 100,000 EDPs a year? Seems awfully high to me. And what the hell does, "routinely result in injuries or death" mean. I seriously doubt there the NYPD responds to 275 EPD calls per day. But if that is the case, and people are "routinely" injured, does "routinely" mean say, half the time? So there are 6 EDPs injured by the NYPD every hour? Now that would be a real story... except it's not true. I'm not quite certain what the story here is, except for a job well done by the NYPD.

Anyway, "cops do good job" indeed isn't much of a headline. Nor is "violent crazy man committed to hospital, everybody goes home" a great lede. Still, it seems appropriate to give the police credit when it is due. I mean this is what Tasers are for.

[hat tip to Sgt B]


Anonymous said...

The NYPD receives 11 million 911 calls per year. 100,000 EDP's a year sounds about right.

An Emotionally Disturbed Person can be anyone from a fourteen year old girl who is a little depressed, to a 35 year old guy who wants to commit suicide by cop.

Jonathan said...

Most any time EMS is called for an EDP issue, the police are dispatched as well, even if the EDP is not a violent threat.

PCM said...

Fair enough. But then I'll double down on EDP calls do *not* "routinely" end up with people injured!

Dave- IL said...

RE: Comment by Jonathan...

As a licensed EMT who also works in the security department at a hospital with a behavioral health specialty, I don't have a problem--in theory--with sending police to an EDP call. But they need to be in the right mindset to respond to these calls, otherwise the situation will get out of control.

Though most mentally ill people are not violent, these situations can change rapidly. If the patient becomes aggressive, EMS may need to leave the scene for their own safety, which won't help the patient. If EMT's/Medics are injured, then additional EMS resources will be required to treat them, which still doesn't help the patient. Also keep in mind that even though the EDP may not be violent, he or she may have a history of getting violent with first responders. The person (or residence) may be "flagged" with a safety message, which will result in police being dispatched.

So if police respond, we must make sure that they are trained to deal with people who are mentally ill and/or expressing suicidal/homicidal ideations. This requires a somewhat different approach than your average bar fight, domestic, etc.

Shouting orders at a person who is already paranoid (this paranoia is often enhanced by the presence of uniformed personnel)will probably backfire. In contrast, police who have some basic training in identifying sings of common mental illnesses and in recognizing how people move from anxiety to aggression (there are common physiological signs)should be more successful. Emphasizing that the EDP is not in any legal trouble can also remove some of the tension, in my experience.

Like it or not, when EDP's act out in public (or even at home) people will freak out and police will be called. The long-term solution is to accept this reality and prepare the police for this sensitive task.

Anonymous said...

This week's taser related court case:


PCM said...

Aw, come on. What's the bottom line? The take home point. I'm not going to read the whole thing. It's not even a decision, is it?

Anonymous said...

To boil down the Taser part: Policeman can't taser a fleeing man who does not realize that it is a policeman chasing her. Also, taser shots to head = bad juju.

I thought the interesting part of the decision was the part about:

whether the policeman needs to merely announce


whether the policeman needs to announce in such a manner that there is no doubt that he is heard by the suspect.

Looks like the court was trying to distinguish some non-binding, but bad, Seventh Circuit law on that point. I am very interested in the announcement part because I find that a lot of policemen on the internet care more about whether an announcement was made than whether the suspect heard (or understood) the announcement. I popucation (that is education of policemen) is needed on that point.

Anonymous said...

another point of posting the case is:

sometimes "cops (maybe) did it all wrong" doesn't make the headline news either

K said...

This doesn't pertain to this post but I couldn't find a contact form on your blog or your personal site; let me know if there's a better way to ask questions.

Anyways, while this a slightly stale topic now, I ran across a comment I wrote for myself in response to the following from the Vox article What we know about who police kill in America:

The concentration of death among young black and Hispanic men, meanwhile, is in part a demonstration that those are the people most likely to encounter police officers. They're the ones most likely to be arrested, and most likely to be living in the neighborhoods where police most frequently patrol.

My comment was:

Young black and Hispanic men are also probably the most likely to be members of organizations that 'compete' with police departments, i.e. gangs.

I just now tried to lookup evidence about that and, at least according to the National Gang Center, it looks like I was right.

I couldn't however find any statistics about the proportion of people killed by police officers that are or are suspected of being gang members. I suspect it isn't that high, mainly because I'd expect gang members to be relatively rational with regard to using violence against police, but I'm not confident of my suspicion much at all.

PCM said...

Maybe it reflects my east-coast bias, I'm skeptical of the overuse of the term gang. I think it has a lot more to do with race and class than being part of any formal gang structure.

I do not doubt that gangs exists, but my policing experience leads me to believe that a lot of what are sometimes considered "gangs" really just means a group of (often criminal) friends hanging out.

That said, no, I don't think any reliable data exists on the matter.